Tuesday, August 4, 2009


When you don't have the moxie to challenge Stark County's leadership to excellence, what is there left to do?

Cheer-lead, that's what.

Even losing teams have cheerleaders.

And cheerleading seems to be a quality that The Canton Repository editorial board is set on honing and emphasizing these days.

For the life of yours truly, there's nothing to cheer about with the Stark Education Partnership (SEP), if you judge the organization by its president Doctor Adrienne O'Neill (PhD) and her interaction with the hoi polli public.

O'Neill is a lady who did not have the good sense to respond to an e-mail question yours truly sent her about the performance of the SEP about a year ago. As the SCPR is wont to do, the unanswered e-mail was followed up with an "embarrassing to her" telephone call. If that had not worked, then at one of her frequent public appearances, the question(s) would have been asked in that forum.

The goal of the SCPR is not to embarrass, but to get answers to incisive questions. and to prod Stark community leaders into questing for excellence. Undoubtedly, on the Stark high brow social circuit O'Neil gets a steady diet of "softball" education questions. Accordingly, she would not be practiced in handling the really difficult ones.

If O'Neill's take on improving Stark education is indicative of what is going on in Stark County education, then we should all embark on a fervent prayer life.

Back to The Repository Editorial Board.

The Rep editorial board picks up O'Neill's and SEP's claim to fame in touting the increasing number of graduates from Stark's high schools (which apparently is the "main claim to fame" achievement stretching over 20 years). The truth of the matter is that rates could not go anywhere but up from the abysmal levels that existed when SEP took up this project. You have to start somewhere.

The more important question of SEP and O'Neil is what do Stark's graduates know (core knowledge) and what are the graduates' processing skills (ability to think critically, creatively and innovatively)?

Wouldn't want to spoil a good cheerleading session with questions like those, would you?

Last week Governor Ted Strickland was in town to tell us that the Jackson school system has arrived to the point that if all Ohio schools were like Jackson, Ohio would have no need for educational reform?


And guess what we got out of The Rep's editors?

Yes, yes and yes again: SILENCE.

The governor failed to mention Jackson's 36% remediation rate when its graduates go to college and the heavens only know what employers have to spend in extra - make up for what was missed in high school - "education" dollars when these grads hit the workplace.

The SCPR has asked educators throughout Stark County (including O'Neill) about the extraordinarily high remediation rates and has gotten no meaningful answers: only a shrug of the shoulders or some nonsense like "we didn't have the college evaluative tests beforehand."

O'Neil takes a page out of a politician's book and "changed the subject when asked by the SCPR about what is being done about the high remediation rate. All she wants to talk about is the increasing rates of graduation among Stark's high schools. Why shouldn't she. Changing the subject is working. She and SEP gets cheered on by The Repository on cherry picked data that has not been examined critically as to the "real" significance to quality education occurring in Stark.

So Doctor O'Neill, if a school with a 50% graduation rate and a 70% remediation rate increases its graduation rate to 95%; what, pray-tell, would be the new remediation rate?

Since the emphasis is pushing more students out the door with degrees, wouldn't it stand to reason that the remediation rates will escalate. Maybe a little sacrificing quality for quantity might be going on?

Yours truly, in the comments sections of The Repository and perhaps in a "letter to the editor" or two used to chide former Canton mayor Janet Creighton for functioning mainly as a cheerleader in her role as Canton's chief executive.

But for Creighton there was nothing else to do.

Stark County's leadership infrastructure has evaporated with the loss of Canton's industrial base.

The Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce sat and watched and wringed their hands. The chamber is the only game in town as a specific attempt to rebuild Stark's lost leadership capability. But yours truly suspects its curriculum and regimen is not nearly tough enough. Not everyone who engages the program should be able to get through it. And, for the ones who do, there ought to be an accountability-esque report on the chamber's website detailing how the leadership school experience enabled specifically identified graduates to produce measurable results for Stark County.

Back to The Repository Editorial Board.

If Canton had a newspaper with aggressive, thoughtful, reflective, penetrating and a "no nonsense" public accountability qualities about its editorial board, there would be reason to be cheered about the future of Stark.

But the opposite is true.

The Rep appears to be in death throes. The folks at 500 South Market Avenue appear to be just trying to get from day-to-day. Just talk to the everyday Rep employee. Despair abounds everywhere.

Except that is with the editorial board.

Like the cheerleaders for the bottom dwelling team, they will cheer on until the bitter end.

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